chapter  7
Straw Women and Whipping Girls: The (Sexual) Politics of Critical Self-Fashioning
ByCarol Cook
Pages 17

This chapter shows the way that feminist criticism has been positioned in recent essays on the subject of Shakespeare studies. Juliet Dusinberre's book was published in 1975, The Woman's Part and the books by Linda Bamber, Marilyn French, Irene Dash and Coppelia Kahn were all published between 1980 and 1982. The impetus behind this body of work was the women's movement of the 1960s and 1970s, a movement that brought women academics to reconsider the subjects of their scholarship and teaching in light of a new feminist politics. Critical discourse also is a politics, enacting a struggle for power in the academy and in intellectual circles. Richard Levin's characterization of both feminist psychoanalytic and cultural materialist critics consistently betrays a certain ignorance about the premises and theoretical underpinnings of these critical discourses. In Levin's writing, feminist criticism becomes the whipping girl on whom a collective aggression is vented.